Earth Science Labs raises zebra mussel awareness with webinar for virtual-learning students

Feb 4, 2021

Earth Science Labs’ aquatic invasive species specialist connects with Kentucky science teacher to host webinar on zebra mussels and zebra mussel control methods.

ROGERS Arkansas, February 4, 2021—With virtual learning and non-traditional teaching becoming the new normal, many teachers are working overtime to create engaging lessons. Hands-on subjects such as science benefit from interactive learning, yet those interactions have been especially limited during the COVID-19 pandemic. One science teacher in Louisville, Kentucky turned this obstacle into an opportunity.  

In early December, Ms. Lori Weber of Knight Middle School in Louisville organized a webinar featuring guest speaker David Hammond, Ph.D., an environmental chemist and zebra mussel expert from Earth Science Labs (ESL). Ms. Weber already knew about zebra mussels when she reached out to ESL. “I grew up on Lake Erie, and the zebra mussel problem was everywhere,” she said. “During our invasive species unit, I wanted to share my experience and connect my students to real-world applications.”

Zebra mussels invaded the Great Lakes in the early 1980’s, hitching rides in the ballast water released from cargo ships. Since then, they have spread to every major watershed in the lower 48 states except the Pacific Northwest, which is now on high alert to keep them out. They breed in massive numbers—a mature female zebra mussel can release up to one million eggs in a single spawning season—and their microscopic offspring can swim freely for up to a month. Once introduced, zebra mussels can quickly foul beaches with sharp shells, cling to boats and docks in thick colonies, and clog critical pipelines and infrastructure.

When Ms. Weber reached out to the scientific community searching for a way to enhance her students’ environmental education, ESL was the first to respond. “I was happy to support Ms. Weber in her efforts to provide variety to her class, and it was refreshing to sense the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm,” said Hammond. “Online webinars are now a routine part of both schooling and the workplace, so it was nice for both me and the kids to have a day slightly different than most other days. And I appreciated their attention to a nationwide environmental challenge that I have spent years studying,” said Dr. Hammond.

“I was very impressed with the amount of knowledge that Dr. Hammond had,” said Ms. Weber. She added that Dr. Hammond raised her own awareness of zebra mussel control methods. “We learned about the copper solution that they use to quell zebra mussels. Where I’m from, they scrape or grind them off surfaces.”

One hundred of Ms. Weber’s eighth-grade students tuned in to the webinar to learn how to identify, prevent, and control zebra mussels. They also learned of current methods used by agencies and resource managers to minimize the spread of established populations. At the end of the webinar, students asked questions directly to Dr. Hammond, affording them a unique opportunity to learn about the current state of zebra mussel control efforts. “The kids were completely engaged while Dr. Hammond was speaking” said Ms. Weber. “He did a really nice job of keeping their attention.”

David Hammond is an environmental chemist who has consulted with private industry on topics including pest management, taste and odor problems, biological wastewater treatment, sustainability, and biomimicry. He holds a master’s degree from the Energy and Resources Group and a Ph.D. in Environmental Chemistry, both from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Hammond has four patents and several peer-reviewed publications and currently serves as Vice President of Application Development at ESL.

Earth Science Laboratories Inc. manufactures advanced water treatment products for use in municipal, agricultural and recreational waters. EarthTec QZ is an EPA registered molluscicide for controlling quagga mussels and zebra mussels in pipelines and open waters. It is NSF Certified to Standard 60 as an additive to drinking water. More information is available at earthtecqz.com.